The Mind-Body Benefits of Yogic Meditation

By Larry Payne, Georg Feuerstein, Sherri Baptiste, Doug Swenson, Stephan Bodian, LaReine Chabut, Therese Iknoian

Although the earliest scientific studies of yogic meditation date back to the 1930s and 1940s, research into the psychophysiological effects of meditation took off in the 1970s, fueled by a burgeoning interest in Transcendental Meditation (TM), Zen, and other Eastern meditation techniques. Since then, thousands of studies have been published, with an exponential increase in research in the past 10 to 15 years as brain-imaging technology has become increasingly sophisticated.

Here is a brief synopsis of the most significant benefits of meditation:

Physiological benefits:

  • Decreased heart rate

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Quicker recovery from stress

  • Decrease in beta (brainwaves associated with thinking) and increase in alpha, delta, and gamma (brainwaves associated with deep relaxation and higher mental activity)

  • Enhanced synchronization (that is, simultaneous operation) of the right and left hemispheres of the brain (which positively correlates with creativity)

  • Fewer heart attacks and strokes

  • Increased longevity

  • Reduced cholesterol levels

  • Decreased consumption of energy and need for oxygen

  • Deeper, slower breathing

  • Muscle relaxation

  • Reduction in the intensity of pain

Psychological benefits:

  • More happiness and peace of mind

  • Greater enjoyment of the present moment

  • Less emotional reactivity; fewer intense negative emotions and dramatic mood swings

  • More loving, harmonious relationships

  • Increased empathy

  • Enhanced creativity and self-actualization

  • Heightened perceptual clarity and sensitivity

  • Reductions in both acute and chronic anxiety

  • Complement to psychotherapy and other approaches in the treatment of addiction